33. Telegram 3187/USDel 50 From the Embassy in Costa Rica to the Department of State1

3187. Subject: 16th MFM.

1. The eleven country “Freedom of Action” resolution passed with 16 votes (Guatemala being last minute addition to the supporters). There were three no votes, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay. Nicaragua and Brazil abstained.

[Page 105]

2. The following is text of Ambassador Mailliard’s statement and U.S. vote:

Quote. Secretary of State Kissinger, in his Houston speech dealing with relations with Latin America, made clear the willingness of the U.S. to support a generally acceptable solution to the issue of Cuba sanctions. This resolution, which we have voted on this evening, in the opinion of my delegation, gives us this general acceptable solution, one that commands the support of the necessary majority. Accordingly, we have voted in favor of it.

At Quito the U.S. took a position of strict neutrality abstaining on the resolution to leave without effect the 1964 sanctions. That resolution received a majority but fell short of the necessary two-thirds support required by the Rio Treaty. In the circumstances, we considered ourselves bound by our international obligations to continue to observe the sanctions.

We have now reached almost unanimous agreement here at San Jose on a protocol to the Rio Treaty that incorporates the principle of majority rule in respect of lifting sanctions. The resolution just adopted properly honors the majority sentiment in the hemisphere. But it also respects the legal reality of the treaty’s current provisions and the political reality of divergent opinions in this hemisphere about Cuban behavior. As Deputy Secretary Ingersoll said at Quito “it is not easy to resolve the problem of a country that deals with some on the basis of hostility and with others on the basis of a more normal relationship.” This resolution establishes, in accordance with the two-thirds voting procedures of the Rio Treaty in force today, the freedom of action of each country in the hemisphere to renew or not to renew diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba in accordance with each country’s national interests and each country’s own perception of Cuban behavior toward it. In so doing it places the issue in perspective and permits us to concentrate our multilateral energies on the more fundamental problems of the hemisphere.

I suppose the press rightly will pay considerable attention to what we have done here this evening. In years ahead, however, historians may well judge that the more significant of our two meetings held in San Jose was the special conference that modernized the Rio Treaty, completing the first step in our continuing effort to reform the inter-American relationship. End quote.

  1. Summary: The Embassy reported that OAS Foreign Ministers meeting in San José had resolved the Cuba sanctions issue by approving a resolution allowing OAS members to decide for themselves whether or not to maintain relations with Havana. The Embassy transmitted Mailliard’s explanation for the favorable U.S. vote.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D750262–0426. Unclassified; Immediate. Repeated to all OAS capitals. In telegram 151803 to all American Republic diplomatic posts, June 26, the Department described its position on OAS Cuba policy in advance of the San José meeting, noting that, “as the Secretary stated at Houston, the U.S. stands ready to cooperate in reaching a generally acceptable solution” and that “although we would not take the lead, we would be willing to support a freedom of action formula which was buttressed by a strong reference to nonintervention.” (Ibid., D750222–0672) The Secretary’s March 1 speech in Houston is published in the Department of State Bulletin, March 24, 1975, pp. 361–369. In an August 21 statement, the Department announced modifications to its Cuba policy in response to the OAS decision, noting that in the future licenses would be granted for “transactions between U.S. subsidiaries and Cuba for trade in foreign-made goods when those subsidiaries are operating in countries where local law or policy favors trade with Cuba.” (Department of State Bulletin, September 15, 1975, p. 404)